Authors: William Casey Moreton
A RYAN ARCHER THRILLER
WILLIAM CASEY MORETON
Copyright 2013, William Casey Moreton All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
The Prophet is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
I can’t live with myself any longer,
the girl thought. She was only fifteen but felt much older. She’d been miserable so long she didn’t remember how to live any other way.
I’m sick of feeling this way. I’d rather just die and be done with it. Please, God, I just want peace. I want to close my eyes and be at peace.
Her name was Tatum Cloud. She was in a bedroom in a duplex apartment somewhere in Los Angeles, seated on the floor in one corner of the room with her knees tucked under her chin. The blinds were closed over the window and a comforter from the bed had been tacked to the wall to cover the window to keep any traces of outside light from filtering through. It was midday. The world outside was bright and sunny and beautiful, and she wanted to be a part of it so bad she could taste it. That’s all she had ever wanted—to be a part of the world, to feel normal. But there was nothing normal about Tatum.
She wore a hooded cotton sweatshirt, the same as every day, with the hood pulled over her head to shroud her face. The hoodie had a zipper down the front. Today the hoodie was a pink one. Every day was a different color. She owned literally hundreds of them.
She didn’t want to think about the outside world. She pushed thoughts of it away, aggressively clearing her mind and focusing instead on the floor at the feet. She felt miserable.
She had crashed at the duplex for two days. It was rented by a friend of a friend. The bedroom was small and unfurnished except for the mattress on the floor. The girl who rented the duplex hadn’t recognized Tatum, but at the first mention of Tatum’s famous last name her eyes had lit up and a certain distinct
moment had been clearly visible in her eyes. Those
moments were a big part of Tatum’s life. Those were the moments when Tatum went from being a normal girl in the eyes of the world to a freak. Tatum was sick of feeling like a freak.
Her friend Danielle had spent the night with a dude with a Mohawk, making out downstairs. It was gross. The guy with the Mohawk was like thirty, and really skinny, like sickly skinny. It was no mystery that he was into drugs. Danielle liked the scary types, and she was starting to mess around with drugs too much herself. Tatum could tell Danielle was changing. That was a sad feeling because Danielle had been one of her closest friends for a long time. They were drifting apart. Tatum had smoked some weed, but that was about it. She was a smart girl and had seen too much trouble in her parents’ world to let herself get caught up in that crap.
She was dressed in distressed jeans with bare feet. The bedroom door was closed. She leaned forward and stood up. Then went out into the hallway and could hear people talking downstairs in the kitchen. She sat on the top step and crossed her arms over her thighs. The place smelled like a sweaty armpit.
“Where is she?” someone asked.
“Upstairs,” a familiar voice answered.
“Let me talk to her.”
“Fine with me, but she doesn’t exactly strike me as the social type. Always wearing those damn hoodies. It’s hard to even see her face.”
“I want to talk to her.”
It was a man’s voice. Not a kid. Tatum wasn’t sure how to feel about that. She wasn’t a real fan of people, especially not adults, so chatting with some man she’d never met didn’t exactly rank high on her list of fun things to do. She wanted to creep out the back door, but the only way out was down the stairs and past the kitchen. And besides, it was like noon out there, and not a cloud in the sky—she hadn’t been outside at noon since she was ten years old.
She eased up and tiptoed back to the bedroom. There was nowhere to hide. Not even a bed to slither under. There was another bedroom across the hall, but what was the point? She sat on the mattress in the dark, waiting.
She heard footsteps coming up the stairs.
Then a knock on the door.
“Tatum, are you awake?” It was Cecile’s voice, the girl with the duplex.
Tatum felt a lump in her throat. She wanted to be home, in her own bedroom, with her own stuff, but she felt like even more of a freak there with her own family.
“I’m awake,” she said.
The door nudged open, light from the hallway falling across the bedroom carpet.
“Wow, it’s dark in here,” Cecile said, standing in the doorway. She was dressed in shorts and a tube top. “How are you?”
Tatum shrugged. She wasn’t a fan of Cecile, but Cecile was apparently Danielle’s new BFF and so Tatum had spent more time around her lately than she would have liked.
“I don’t know how you live like this,” Cecile said under her breath. “So depressing.”
Tatum stared at her own toes.
“There’s a guy downstairs you should meet. He’s nice,” Cecile said.
“He’s not weird or anything at all.”
“I don’t … I don’t feel up to meeting anyone right now.”
“You might like him.”
“Why is he here? Is he a friend of yours or something?”
“Not really. He heard you were here and wanted to meet you.”
“He just knows that my parents are super famous and wants to try to meet them through me. I hate that. That’s been happening my whole life. Tell him to go away and leave me alone.”
“It’s not like that, Tatum. He thinks he can help.”
“I don’t want help.”
“I think you do. Have you been to doctors?”
“I’ve been to every doctor in the world. But they all say the same thing—I don’t need a doctor. Everything that’s wrong with me is just in my head.”
Cecile eased the door open a little more. “That’s super sad, dude.”
“What is his name?”
“Why would he want to help me?”
Cecile considered the question for a moment, then shrugged. “Because that’s what he does.”
“What does that mean?”
“He helps people. He’s really good at it.”
“People like me?”
“All kinds of people.”
“I’m just really messed up. I’d rather everyone leave me alone.”
“Please talk to him. Just for a few minutes. Then if you don’t like him I’ll ask him to leave. Sound fair enough?”
“Is he a doctor?”
“Is he a shrink?”
“How does he help people?”
“He is very special. I’d like you to meet him, Tatum.”
Cecile’s tone seemed genuine, as did her concern. Tatum wasn’t interested in whatever Alexander had to say or offer. Her problem was in her own head, and her parents had already wasted tons of money sending her to the best therapists and doctors in the world. No one had been able to help. So how could this guy be any different? But then again, what would it hurt to say hello?
“Give me a few minutes,” Tatum said. “I feel nervous.”
“He’s a total sweetheart,” Cecile said. “No worries at all. Take five minutes, then come down to the kitchen. I’ll make something for you to eat while you talk. You’re going to like him. He’s very personable. Okay?”
Tatum took a deep breath, wiggling her toes. Then she nodded.
“Good. I’ll see you in five minutes.”
Five minutes passed. Tatum tried to meditate and clear her mind the way her Aunt Mona had taught her. Then she took a pill her mother’s shrink had prescribed. She was feeling extremely anxious when she went down the stairs and sat at the kitchen table. But within moments all her anxiety lifted. Alexander was seated at the table, smiling warmly.
“Hello, Tatum,” he said. “It’s a true pleasure to meet you.”
In that moment she felt like she had known him all her life. The walls she had spent her life erecting inside her head crashed to the ground. He had only spoken nine words, but already she felt she could trust him with everything inside of her. It was as if she had met God.
They sat and talked until sunset. Tatum and Alexander. Just the two of them. She had never felt so safe or secure. They started at the kitchen table, then went to the bedroom and sat facing each other cross-legged on the pathetic mattress on the floor. He listened to her, to her pain, to her fears, to the brokenness of her heart. She could sense that he truly felt what she felt. He listened without interrupting, without interjecting his opinions or dissecting or interpreting her carefully chosen words.
Alexander was a handsome man. Forty years old. Dark hair parted to one side. An inch under six feet tall. Slim but not thin. A very healthy-looking man. He was dressed in a casual suit that put her at ease. No tie. He was lightly tanned, his eyes were blue, and his smile revealed a mouthful of white, perfect teeth. His voice was warm and soothing. And when he looked into her eyes and spoke to her, she believed that for those moments she was the only person in the world.
It felt safe to allow herself to be vulnerable with him. Tatum spoke her heart in an open and honest way she’d never spoken to anyone before. It felt cleansing. As he listened she felt at peace.
“You are a brave young woman,” he told her.
The way he said it made her genuinely feel that she
brave. She was so happy to have met this person and to have had this conversation that she wanted to cry, only she was too
to cry. She couldn’t stop smiling. She never wanted him to leave.
“Thank you for finding me,” she said, eyes glassy.
Alexander smiled and put a hand on hers. “We found each other,” he said. “This is a very important day.”
Tatum loved the way that sounded.
After sunset they sat on the stoop outside and Alexander said to her, “There is someplace I’d like to take you.”
“It is the place I work.”
“What is it that you do, Alexander?”
His blue eyes sparkled in the glow from nearby streetlights.
“My job is very important. I find special people like yourself and help them realize how special they really are.”
“That must be very rewarding,” she said.
His smile brightened further still, exposing deep dimples that made her weak in the knees. “Indeed. I’m a very blessed man. Would you like to come with me?”
More than anything, she did. If for no other reason just to spend more time in his presence. But she was quiet for a long moment. She felt swept away by the emotional swell of the day. She trusted him with every fiber of her being without hesitation, but based on what? It was something she couldn’t easily define. Like a spiritual connection.
Tatum nodded her head. “Yes, I would like to go.”
Alexander squeezed her hand. “Great.”
They didn’t tell anyone they were leaving. Tatum hadn’t brought anything other than the clothes she wore. No bags, no purse, nothing to go inside the house to collect. Alexander’s Mercedes was parked at the curb in front of the house. Tatum buckled in. She was small-framed with delicate features, pale from years spent out of the reach of sunlight.
“Where are we going?”
“You will like it there.”
“I’ve been very lonely for a long time,” she said.
“I know,” he said. “I know.” He smiled at her.
“I feel like I’ve known you all my life,” she said.
“I feel the same way.”
She smiled, though he couldn’t see it because of the hood.